Monday 8 August 2016

Ramble On

This post mentions the history and laws of the United Kingdom, something that I know even less about than most things I ramble on about in these pages, so before I make any factual errors let me apologise to the locals for my colonial ignorance. That said, let's get on with it.

All this talk of hiking these last few days makes me want to share about the great British tradition of rambling. Now, I initially got pretty defensive when some of my acquaintances started talking about the topic as if it were 'theirs', after all, I've done my fair whack of bushwalking in Australia, but we do have some natural advantages back home. In Australia for the most part walks keep to national parks and to public roads, with few excursions onto private property, which is the sort of thing you can do when you have... huge tracts of land, and those tracts haven't be farmed by the same family for hundreds of years. The poms don't have this luxury, living on an island you can just about spit across that's been hedged (what's a fence?) and tilled for an age or two, but for a fair time now there's been a tradition of just getting out given even a hint of any half-decent weather and wandering around the countryside, something farmers and landholders weren't really big fans of, what with their crops being trampled and all, but I can only assume that they put on their stiff upper lip and lay back and thought of England or utilised any number of other appropriate national stereotypes.

Thankfully for the local hiking types, the strange concept of 'public right of way' arose over time, the idea that if a path has been used by the public for an extended period, regardless of whose land it's actually on, then the public cannot be restricted from walking that path. One thing you can say about the Brits is that I are pretty good at writing things down, so this means that they have a lot of these common paths dotted around the countryside, just waiting to be discovered. In this day of more formal laws and regulations, this has turned into a system by which each county council basically has an official map of known footpaths that they ensure access to. Most of them seem to start and end at the local pub for some reason.The landowners seem to be pretty good at looking after the trails too, all the ones I've met so far have well-maintained bridges and gates where required. What more could a rambler want?

With this in mind I went for a little bit of ramble with some church folks last weekend, from Shiplake to Sonning (home of Theresa May and George Clooney) through the fields and then back along the Thames River Path, which follows the course of the river from its source in Gloucester for some 190 miles to London. We didn't go that far, the whole round trip was just 6 miles with a stop at the 'Flowing Spring' part way around, just enough to start feeling like maybe it was exercise but not enough to start wishing that it wasn't, even for a natualised couch potato like me, and we all had a good time. There's certainly something special about the strange blend of public and private land, well maintained paths and animal tracks that make up the rambling experience. As always, I was stunned by just how many people were out enjoying the sunshine, the British inclination to strip off and head outside at the drop of a hat really has to be seen to be believed.

Oh, and I found a geocache! It has been so long that I've apparently completely forgotten how to draw my little geocaching owl, but it really did bring all those good feelings back, totally worth the day or so of suffering from the stinging nettles I made friends with in the process on digging around in the undergrowth.

I don't really have a lot more to say about it except to mention that this land was definitely made for walking so I'm going to have to make more of an effort to do more of it, and that I'm definitely not made for photography so I should probably make more of an effort on that too. 

Blaugust Writing Prompts
1) If you had to choose a way to get fit, what would you choose?
2) Got some local (or not so local) history that might be fun to teach us about?
3) Got a photo (or screenshot) that you want to share?

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